In an open letter, bosses at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, all local healthcare providers and Shropshire Council outline the challenge services are facing as we head into the winter months – but also how the public can help support local health and care services.
The letter says: “The level of demand we have seen in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin over the last few weeks is very high and shows no sign of relenting. It is the same story across the country, and it is likely to get even more challenging; especially as we enter the festive period.
“Both Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin are seeing sustained and high numbers of patients, with the number of instances of norovirus, which brings on diarrhoea and vomiting, and other respiratory illnesses such as covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on the rise.
“Our hospitals are very busy and full. This is causing lengthy waits in A&E and delays in ambulances being able to hand over their patients. As a result, ambulance crews are unable to respond to other 999 calls in the community.
“We also face delays in discharging patients from hospital – many of whom have complex personal circumstances and needs. This is leading to extended waiting times to access beds and adding to ambulance handover delays.
“As health and care leaders, we give you our word that we are doing everything within our power to see that our communities get the care they need when they need it.”
The letter can be read in full here.
Here are some things we can all do to help our health and care services overcome a challenging winter:
- Get your covid and flu vaccinations, including the booster jab if you’re eligible. They are simple steps that will help you stay well and reduce the likelihood of you needing other health and care services.
- If you have norovirus (vomiting and diarrhoea) stop it spreading such as washing your hands regularly. If you or a family member have been sick with norovirus, you should avoid visiting hospitals and care homes, and not return to work or school, until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped. Also avoid visiting elderly or vulnerable people, particularly if they are in hospital or a care home.
- Visit NHS 111 Online or call NHS 111 if you or someone you’re with has a medical problem that isn’t life-threatening but requires immediate help, NHS 111 will get you assessed and directed to the right place.
- If you need to see your GP, they will see you, but you could also be signposted to other clinicians or health professionals who can see you quicker and give you the help you need. That could be a nurse practitioner or a clinical pharmacist – these are skilled people who can help you to get well sooner.
- Consider using your local Minor Injury Unit in Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Oswestry and Whitchurch, which on average have much shorter waiting times. These can provide rapid treatment for urgent, non-life-threatening injuries such as cuts, burns or sprains.
- Local pharmacies are open seven days a week to offer advice and over the counter medications for minor ailments such as upset stomachs, earache, skin rashes and for relief of coughs and colds.
- Support a loved one to get home from hospital as quickly as possible. Spending as little time in hospital as possible is better for patients. Collecting your loved one from hospital as early as possible will also help free up beds for patients who require admission.
- If you have a relative or loved one in hospital waiting to be discharged with homecare and community health support, you may help them get home quicker if you and your family can support them at home. If you feel that this is an option that you could consider, please speak to their ward manager or social worker to explore further.
- Only call 999 or attend A&E departments for genuine life-threatening emergencies.
Dr Nick White, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, said: “We are already seeing high levels of demand for services at the start of this winter period. Health and care staff are doing all they can to provide the best care possible, but we can’t do this without the public playing their part to help our health and care services over the coming months. We strongly encourage residents to take the actions highlighted in the letter to help reduce pressure and ensure everyone can access the services and support they need”.
Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, said: “This is the start of what will be another long and extremely difficult winter for health and social care staff. They need our support and we can all play a part. We all need to do what we can to protect ourselves, our most vulnerable members in our community, as well as our health and care services. Getting vaccinated against covid and flu if you are eligible is one very simple way you can protect your family and loved ones.”
For more information and to find the right help fast, visit www.thinkwhichservice.co.uk.